Eat Local South East
Camping in the South East puts you on the doorstep of a wealth of culture, entertainment, heritage and natural beauty. The vibrant cities and towns offer exciting flavours from around the world in street stalls, quirky cafes and top-end restaurants.
Pretty village gastropubs pepper the South Downs whose chalky soil and favourable climate also make the perfect conditions for wine producers. Kent produces plentiful wine too, alongside hops for its breweries and bounteous vegetables to fulfil its role as the South East’s allotment. If you are looking for a heady mix of fun and great food, the South East is your destination.
Ali's Eat Local loves
Seafood - Whitstable oysters, fresh hot smoked mackerel filled baps bought from the tiny smokery on Brighton's seafront. Drink - Beers from the Hogs Back Brewery, Ridgeview Sparkling wine. Treats - An ice cream from Morelli's Gelato, Broadstairs.
Chillis are big in Chichester. They are also small, hot, fiery, mild and multi-coloured. In fact the West Dean Gardens here house a collection of about 200 different varieties, of all shapes and sizes, and with varying degrees of heat.
Now while a visit to the gardens to marvel at the chillis, the kitchen garden and glorious parkland is a good way to spend a day, the real attraction has to be the Red Hot Chilli Fiesta held here in early August. This is a festival celebrating everything about these little red rockets of fire. There is live music, cooking demonstrations, latino dancing and plenty of spicy food stalls. How much heat can you take?
The English wine industry is rightfully gaining recognition on the world stage. The climate and soil conditions in Sussex match those of France’s Champagne region. Now Sussex sparkling wines are regularly beating the French equivalents in taste tests. Taste for yourself on a wine tour of the region.
Our Norman’s Bay Site is less than 30 minutes away from two great vineyards. Carr-Taylor offers guided tours with tutored wine tastings, or you can choose to do a self-guided tour instead. The Eco-pioneers at Sedlescombe became England’s first organic vineyard in 1976. You can picnic under ancient oaks in their bluebell wood with a bottle of their finest.
Adgestone, Isle of Wight
Mention the Isle of Wight and I think of ice cream. Minghella’s ice-cream to be precise. You can buy it all over the island, but for a proper Isle of Wight ice-cream experience buy it from the Minghellas van parked on the top of Brading Down.
You can look at the glorious views over Sandown while you lick. The Minghella family moved to the island from Italy in the 1950s bringing their gelato know-how with them. This knowledge, combined with the creamy milk from the island's herds of Channel Island cows, local seasonal fruits and no artificial nonsense produces a heavenly ice cream worthy of great seaside holiday memories.
I challenge anyone not to be bowled over by The Goods Shed in Canterbury. A converted railway shed by Canterbury West Station has a six-day-a-week farmers' market selling fresh bread, meats, vegetables, cakes and local drinks. The cheese stall has at least 12 varieties of Kentish cheese.
Patrick's Kitchen serves delectable takeaway ready meals such as lamb stews made with ingredients from the other stalls – perfect for taking back to the site. Alternatively buy yourself a picnic and head across the road to Westgate Gardens to enjoy by the river.
The 20-minute drive to the Griffin Pub in the village of Fletching, Uckfield will reward you with the en-route delights of the Sussex villages. Pretty red-tiled houses and woodland lanes lead you to ultimately one of the best food pubs I’ve had the delight of visiting.
Locals supply freshly-picked tomatoes, artichokes and broad beans, while the fish is delivered daily from Rye on the Sussex coast and the lamb comes from the Romney Salt marshes. In the summer, an alfresco oven in the garden creates a focal point for lazy lingering lunches, while sampling the local ales.
New Forest – Camping in the Forest Sites
The atmospheric ancient woodlands make this a very special place to camp. Created as King William’s hunting ground in 1079, the forest is still home to venison, wild boar and free-grazing cattle.
The blue New Forest Marque logo displayed on food helps you Eat Local. It indicates produce that comes from within the National Park, but is also produced with high welfare standards.
Owls Barn Farm shop in Sopley sells fantastic produce. It has its own butchery so the top grade lamb, pork and beef have virtually no food miles. For a fascinating way to spend a day, John Wright, the nationally respected author on foraging, lives locally and runs mushroom walks and seashore forays.
I make no apologies for including another Sussex pub as a recommendation. This is the land of cosy country pubs after all.
The Stag Inn in Petworth epitomises all the great things about a good British pub. Log fires, wholesome home-cooked food, inglenooks and a bar propped up by contented locals.
I like the fact that is was once a sweet shop. Now you can enjoy more savoury treats below the 16th century beams, simple pub food like local sausages and mash or lamb shanks fit the bill perfectly and the jam roly poly satisfies a sweet tooth.
This is a place with a passion for real and local ales including Sussex. It is also a ‘welcomes muddy boots’ place...and walkers, cyclists and passing horseriders too.
If you are at our Oldbury Hill Club Site then The George and Dragon in the picturesque village of Chipstead, is a must-visit. It’s been reviving weary travellers since Henry VIII’s time, but don’t worry the interior has been brought up-to-date. It still has all of those enduring features we love though: heavy beams, solid furniture and open fires, and there is a satisfyingly traditional ethos around the food too. Where ever possible the food served comes from the surrounding countryside. As a result, the menu changes daily depending on what’s available and in season. How about Chargrilled English Asparagus with Brown Shrimp Butter or Roast Haunch of Local Venison? If ale is your thing, then you can get into the local spirit too. Westerham Brewery, just eight miles away supplies a range of beers. You can even try a cask ale brew made specifically for the pub called George’s Marvellous Medicine. I’d recommend sitting out in the pub garden, with a pint of this very special medicine, admire the veg patch and herb garden. Lovely for summer evenings.
Shipbourne Farmers' Market - open every Thursday morning - even has its own currency! If you get to the point that you’ve spent out on all the fine produce, you can nip next door to the pub to buy Shipbourne Market Pounds on your debit/credit cards. The market itself takes place in St Giles Church, and has over 20 stalls selling speciality breads, cheeses, fabulous pies and delights from the award-winning Weald Smokery. It is rare to find a weekly farmers' market so close to a site, and with this multiple award-winning one just three miles away, there really is no reason to visit the supermarket! The market is run by volunteers and any profits are given to local farming initiatives. St Giles Church, Stumble Hill, Shipbourne, TN11 9PF.
Being able to freely graze the herb and clover-rich meadows that make up the 175 acres of Romshed Farm could be one of the reasons why the meat tastes to good. Or it could be because the family are utterly devoted to raising the animals with the highest possible organic welfare standards. They run their organic farm in a way that maximises the conservation of the land and the wildlife in this special place just below the lower reaches of the North Downs.
Customers are given plenty of ideas for how to cook their meat and advice on what to do with new cuts to help them appreciate the seasonality of naturally produced meat. So perhaps you’ll get information on how to get the best from a shoulder of hogget that is more in season than a leg of lamb.
This is traditional farm house food at its best – the air dried ham hangs in their 16th century barn, and the bacon is smoked in the ‘wardrobe’ smoker. Exactly as it sounds – an old wardrobe, complete with mirrors, sits in the yard, flavouring the meats.
You can visit the farm to buy the meat – lamb, hogget, chicken and beef all offered in a variety of cuts, but availability is dictated by the farming seasons. The fresh eggs can also be bought via the honesty box in the car park at The White Rock Inn in Underriver.
Romshed Farm, Underriver, Sevonoaks, TN15 0SD. 01732 463372.
If you are looking for some meat for your barbecue, then you only need take a five minute wander down to Chart Farm Shop. It is a family-run deer farm that has been raising venison for over 30 years. Venison has much less fat and cholesterol than chicken and is high in iron, so is a great choice of meat for your barbecue. The deer exist in semi-wild conditions over the 300 acre estate. Fillet or haunch steaks are quick and easy to pan fry. Or if you’d rather stick with beef or lamb, then the shop stocks all cuts of those too.
Chart Farm, Seal Chart, nr Seveonoaks TN15 0ES. 01732 761672.
Opening times: Tues, Weds, Thursday and Friday. 9- 4 pm, Saturday 9-3pm
Oxford Covered Market dates back to 1774. With ancient roof beams, flagstone floor and a warren of market avenues, it’s a wonderful place to stroll around. The market is not just for tourists. Many locals come here for the fantastic range of local food on offer, much of it very affordable.
The original Ben’s Cookie Kiosk is here and the smell of the freshly baked cookies is mouth-watering. I chose chocolate chip (the centre still melting, fresh from the oven) but there are lots of varieties including oatmeal and raisin, peanut butter and even coconut. Try Brown’s original market café where you can get a full English and lots of British favourites such as liver, bacon and cottage pie, homemade cakes, biscuits and their famous apple pie. Run by a Portugese couple, they also offer a delicious taste of Lisbon with their bolo de arroz cakes – lovely Moorish Portuguese rice cakes with a sweet lemon butter aroma. Bristol gourmet pie company Pieminister has a café here (eat in from £5, takeaway £3.50) with their award-winning range including, my favourite, Chicken of Aragon pie with free range chicken bacon and tarragon, Matador pie with British beef steak, chorizo, olives, sherry and butter beans and the Heidi with Somerset Goats Cheese, sweet potato, spinach and red onion, to name but a few. They nearly all carry the Great Taste Award. Fasta Pasta has lovely deli items and great sandwiches. Nash bakery does crusty breads and rolls, cakes, buns and pastries. There’s Bonners a fruit and veg stall which carries lots of local produce a trio of great local butchers, including “M.Feller, Son & Daughter” whose strap line is “in nature we trust”. There’s also a fishmonger and traditional Oxford Cheeses. This place is a foodie treasure trove.
Housed in a 14th Century Hall in the University Church of St.Mary the Virgin, the Vaults & Garden Café is a lovely, old atmospheric building. A sign on a traditional black bike propped outside the mullioned windows, basket filled with flowers, proclaims ‘Afternoon Tea and Fresh Scones’. Inside it’s light and airy thanks to the wonderful vaulted ceilings under which lie a combination of long shared tables. Outside there is a lovely garden (it was the church graveyard) surrounded by architectural treasurers. It’s located behind the Bodleian and looks out over the Radcliffe Camera and several colleges. Picnic blankets are provided as extra seating. The Vaults aims to provide delicious, healthy food at an affordable price using local, organic, producers and they most certainly do.
The food is self-service, which runs well, and they serve what food they have until they run out (and they always do). Get there early for the lovely breakfasts; creamy organic free range scrambled eggs on artisan bread; a veggie option; Mediterranean option with haloumi cheese and grilled mushrooms; the full works; bacon and egg baps; and giant beans on toast. By lunchtime it’s busy and there are queues for tables but the turnaround is quick and it’s worth the wait. University Church, High Street, OX1 4AH Tel: 01865 279112
David and Annika Blake from Worton Organic Garden and Farm Shop supply The Vaults with their delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers. Worton is five miles north west of Oxford and it’s delightful. A seven-acre market garden, it provides the local community with an astonishing diversity of seasonal fresh vegetables, herbs, fruit, eggs and flowers. The farm shop and café are open all year round and are wonderful. They make their own organic bread and on the fourth Sunday of the month a fisherman, Jack from Selsey Shellfish, drops in with his catch of the day and there are delicious bargains to be had. This is a magical, peaceful and enchanting place.
There are now three George & Davis’ Ice Cream shops in Oxford. I visited the original on Little Clarendon Street in Jericho where they still produce the ice cream and cycle it over daily to the other two shops at Cowley Road and St Aldates. G&D opened in 1992 and is ice cream heaven; both kids and adults will love it. They use the highest quality creams, eggs, cane sugar and the finest natural flavours available to produce a luxurious, rich and creamy ice cream. It’s all made on the premises and they do not use any artificial flavours, preservatives or additives. The list of flavours is mouth-watering but never overwhelming with about 12 flavours on offer each day: white choc with dark choc pieces, Baileys & sweet cream, Greek yoghurt & honey, mango sorbet, Mars mania, Oxford blue. It’s not cheap with one scoop at £2.05 but it is a luxury ice cream and I think well worth the price.
Alongside ice cream they now also serve, scrummy desserts: ice cream sundaes, home-made brownies and the wonderfully named G&D cookie monster which is two home-made cookies sandwiched together with a delicious scoop of ice cream. There are also coffee, cakes, cookies and filled bagels. Look out for the blue and white logo.
Certificated Sites with food
Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Farncombe Farm is a conservation farm. The herd of traditional Hereford cattle are raised on herb rich natural grasses on the Lambourn Downs. No chemical fertiliser or pesticides are used so the meat tastse extremely good.
The farms meat is sent to the nearby and higlyh-acclaimed Laverstoke Park Farm for preparation and comes back to Farncombe vac-packed as steaks and joints ready to sell to campers on the site.
There is a large and very productive vegetable garden at Lamberhurst. The owners grow mainly for self-sufficiency, but there is always a surplus that is put out for campers to help themselves.
There are plenty of farm shops in the vicinity selling home-grown produce as well as home-made pies and bread. The CS owners are happy to help with directions and information on local produce. But, the real foodies dream – The Weald Smokery – is just minutes away. Delectable smoked meats, fish and cheeses are on sale in the shop with shelves laden with artisan gastronomic treasures.
Lynn Cheer, owner of the CS at Rushcroft Farm is a passionate supporter of the Eat Local ethos. She farms rare breed stock and firmly believes that by buying meat and produce from rare breeds we can make a stand against intensive commercial meat production.
Her fabulous free range animals are testament to how farm animals can lead happy and healthy lives. The produce is available for campers to purchase from the farm. The Old English Goats are hand-milked daily. They provide milk, cheese and meat. The soft cheese is available in 3 flavours – natural, garlic or chive (ingredients grown on the farm too).
Pork is from Saddleback pigs that are free to roam and scoff the apples and acorns in autumn which adds to the delicious flavour of the meat. Rushcroft sell all cuts of pork including specialty sausages in various mouth watering flavors – great for the barbecue!
Campers can also get eggs from the free-range chickens. Finally, beef from the Angus cattle that have been hand-reared from calfs on the farm, provides the content for the home-made burgers – always a big hit for summer barbecues.